Letters No More (ms)

We went to see a stage play whose premise was quite interesting and for these times unusual. The entire play was based on love letters presumably written by a boy and girl who later became man and woman. The letters covered a span of about fifty years using small notes of historic relevance to help the audience place the time of the writing, the age of the subjects. The letters were fictitious created entirely by the playwright but I couldn’t help wonder if, fifty years from now, an author could write the same play.

The reason the question came up is that so few people today hand write letters at all and I confess I am among them. The computer and its email has made letter writing such a simple chore that most can’t be bothered to look for a card or even a decent piece of paper. A few strokes of the key, “Hi. How are u? I’m well. All the best.”, and life goes on. No matter that few are ever saved. There’s also the value of the stamp and the price of a lovely card should one take that route and then there is the time.

Over the course of the play it became apparent that the lives of both subjects became busier and busier as time went on, as the play drew nearer and nearer to our own era. As a rule we are caught up in the massive jaws of a monster time crunch ourselves and it shows no sign of going away. There is always something that needs doing, always someplace to go, always our attention is being pulled this way and that. It’s all we can do some days to simply stay together. Given those kinds of circumstances it is hard to imagine us sitting down to write a cheery note or a somber note of condolence or simply a note to say hello. Too little free time to waste even a moment of it on such an endeavor.

The fictitious lives were condensed down to about an hour and a half run time and the method was simply that of lifting out bits and pieces of life as depicted in letters that went back and forth. These were all made up but it is easy enough to see how a real life play could have been done the same way. For most of the time we have been a nation wherein people communicated with letters, hand written documents that were anticipated, treasured, read over and over, saved in a small box carefully tucked away in a closet. So it was that children and grandchildren inherited reams of paper detailing lives lived, adventures taken, dreams fulfilled or sometimes dashed. No matter. What they got was a written description of a life, or lives. It made for grand reading since it was done by the persons involved and what better source might one have.

Well, that generation is passing and, for that matter, so is the one that inherited all those letters. We have now a new generation that believes quicker is better and it for sure is cheaper. Fifty years from now though a playwright might ponder a script that would use letters to tell a tale of two ordinary people whose lives went in different directions while never really separating. He or she will sit and imagine how much better the work might be if there were but something to tell what life was truly like.

–Mike Stevens

~ by admin on February 22, 2011.

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